Hampton VA Medical Center
Caring for those who cared
World War II marked a turning point in women’s history as large numbers of women entered industry and various other professions for the very first time. During the conflict, the need for nurses solidified the critical status of the nursing profession and nurses were given officers’ commissions, retirement privileges, dependents’ allowances and equal pay.
Elma Bustle was one of many women who served during World War II as a Navy nurse. A woman with a huge heart who enjoyed caring for people is the way Aurey Kirk describes her 90-year-old mother.
Bustle was stationed at Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Va., while on active duty. Her daughter explained that the hospital experience ~ with its mission of caring for others ~ has been a lifelong theme. After leaving military service, Bustle settled with her family on a ranch in small mining community in Butte, Montana. In 2006, she returned to Chesapeake, Va., where she now resides with her daughter.
“My mother cared for me while I was growing up and now the situation has changed ~ I have to take care of her,” said Kirk, whose mother receives her medical care at the Hampton VA Medical Center. “My mother could sense people who were suffering, especially during the war. It was a big part of her life ~ caring for people. That spirit carried on throughout her life."
According to the WWII U.S. Medical Research Centre website, the tremendous manpower requirements faced by the U.S. Government during WW II created numerous social and economic opportunities for American women – and both society and the military found an increasing number of roles for women.
Women served in many Armed Forces positions with approximately 140,000 women in the Army, 100,000 in the Navy, 23,000 in the Marines, 13,000 in the Coast Guard, and 1,000 in the Air Force.
“I took my mother to the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., a few years ago,” said Kirk. “I could really tell that it meant so much to her.”
The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., honors the 16 million military personnel who served in the military. The monument honors the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort.
“My mother can best be described as strong, independent women who always knew what she wanted,” Kirk said, adding that as she gets older, she believes this is one of the hardest things for her to cope with. “She loved the Navy and, most importantly, helping people.”